Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hellen O’Neal McCray R I P

I don't subscribe to my local newspaper but I do have the headlines as a widget on my iGoogle. This obit appeared this morning in the online edition.

Local teacher, civil rights Freedom Rider dead at 68
By Steve Bennish, Staff Writer
Updated 10:55 AM Thursday, February 25, 2010

YELLOW SPRINGS — Teacher and veteran civil rights marcher Hellen O’Neal McCray died Wednesday, Feb. 24. She was 68.

A Yellow Springs resident since 1966, she taught English and literature at Wilberforce University. She also taught school in Springfield for 29 years.

As a college student, she was jailed in Mississippi as a Freedom Rider in 1961, the first of four arrests for her civil rights work, which included several years with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

The Freedom Rides were a series of demonstrations in which volunteers, many of them college students, rode buses into the segregated South to test civil rights law.

She is among the Freedom Riders featured in a documentary, “Freedom Riders: The Children Shall Lead,” produced by The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi.

She was born in Clarksdale, Miss., and attended Immaculate Conception School, Myrtle Hall Colored School and Holy Rosary School in Lafayette, La., according to her biography for the online African American HistoryMakers Website.

In a 2007 interview, she said, “One of the things I find really frightfully lacking, especially in the young, is that they really don’t know much about the story of the ’60s. It was a time in American history that changed a whole way of living, and they know about Dr. Martin Luther King and that’s about it,” she said. “Young people have no history because the history has not been taught.”

Of Black History Month, she said she’s often disappointed.

“Although I think their lives should be celebrated, we celebrate the same three or four people every year. There is no depth to what we know about or teach about the civil rights movement.”

Funeral arrangements are pending at Porter-Qualls Funeral Home, Xenia.

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